A Newly Discovered Description of the Military Academy at West Point by Its Most Famous Memorialist, Written by Him As a Cadet in 1818

West Point

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An extraordinarily early, rareÊandÊimportant letter, as the West Point Library has but one cadet account prior to 1820. We could not find any others having reached the market in at least four decadesThe Latrobe family is sewn into the fabric of American history. Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the patriarch, was the UnionÕs first trained architect who was instrumental in establishing the Greek, Gothic and Neoclassical styles of architecture in the United States. He is renowned for designing the U. S. Capitol, and the pioneering Philadelphia and New Orleans waterworks; less well known is his design of elements of the White House and his role in its furnishing. It was he who called in fashionable New York merchant Louis Mark on that project. He mentored his teenage sons John H. B. Latrobe and Benjamin Henry Latrobe II, who assisted him.ÊBenjaminÕs son John inherited his fatherÕs aptitude for the arts and design. In 1818, still shy of his 16th birthday, he was sent to West Point to study engineering. At that time, just 200 young men had graduated from West Point since its first two-man class in 1802. But he was forced to return home before graduating when his father died suddenly in 1820, and he became partly responsible for supporting his family. John Latrobe went on to become a lawyer and was instrumental in promoting and establishing the first railroads in America. He was the inventor of the Latrobe stove, and respected artist, president of the Maryland Historical Society, and co-founder of the American Bar Association.ÊIn the 1880s, Latrobe wrote the work for which he is most remembered, his ÒWest Point Reminiscences 1818-1882,Ó which is not only fascinating, but is one of the very few first-hand early accounts of the Military Academy. The work was published in 1887 and remains a key source of information about West Point in those days. The few other accounts we have found relating memories of that time are also retrospectives. We cannot recall seeing a contemporaneous description of the pre -1820 era at West Point reach the marketplace. Here is such a description, from John Latrobe himself.Autograph Letter Signed, West Point, November 22, 1818, to his sister Lydia. "I have delayed writing to you so long that I am now quite ashamed of myself, but I really have so little time that you must forgive me. You see by the date of my letter where I am, and have been since the 28th of September. In the first place I must give you an account of West Point. It is situated on the west bank of the Hudson, about 70 miles from New York, and the nearest town is Newburgh, 10 miles distant. The Hudson rolls on one side of us and on the other are almost inaccessible mountains on whose summits tower the remains of Revolutionary fortifications. The plain itself is situated near 200 feet above the level of the river and is about 3/4 of a mile in circumference. The public buildings are 2 large stone barracks, and an academy and mess house, both of stone, and 5 or 6 brick buildings the quarters of their professors; besides 20 or 30 small houses occupied by washerwomen etc etc. There are at present 230 cadets here, and there is also a company of bombardiers (regulars) who do all the work that is to be done & have a separate barracks which is a very large one built of wood.ÓÊÒOur education consists of every branch of mathematics & philosophy, engineering, drawing, French & fencing; in fact it is the education of a perfect gentleman. We rise at daylight, make up our beds, sweep out the rows, make the fire and & put everything in order. We then go to roll call, after which we return to our rooms, if our guns want cleaning we clean them, if not we study until breakfast which is at 8 o'clock. After breakfast the guard is marched off, at 9 we go to the Academy and recite, return to our rooms and study until 1 when we have dinner. At 2 we go to recite, return to our rooms and study until 4, when we drill until 5. At 5 go parade, after parade we go to supper at 6. W. N° de ref. de la librería

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Título: A Newly Discovered Description of the ...

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